Friday 30 September 2011

Half Real, Malthouse Sep 30, 2011 ***

Half-Real ***
The Border Project, Malthouse Theatre Sep 30 until October 15, 2011
  • Review by: Kate Herbert
  • Also available on:
  • Published: October 03, 2011 4:05PM (reviewed Sep 30)

Half Real. Pictured: Alirio Zavarce, Amber McMahon, David Heinrich. Image credit Steve Tilling

BLEND a murder mystery with an interactive video game, projected digital imagery, characters and dialogue, then give the audience digital, handheld devices to choose the direction of the narrative, and you have Half-Real.
At the start of The Border Projects production, directed by Sam Haren, we stare at an empty space with blank walls until an amplified voice orders us to choose our suspect in the murder of Violet Vario.
The voice instructs us to our digital devices to, Vote now! for either Otis (Alirio Zavarce), Jason (David Heinrich) or Penelope (Amber McMahon), the suspects whose names are projected over their heads.

The audience is excited, anticipating each progression to a new game level and delighting in seeing the voting result projected on screen. Its like the worm on election night  but with real blood.
Locations magically appear as digital art by Chris More transforms the empty space into Violet's bathroom, a bar, a bookshop, a nightclub, a film set or the back of a limousine.
Unfortunately, the acting and dialogue are pedestrian, not equalling the calibre of the elaborate technology designed for the iPad generation.
The concept, technology and design are certainly inventive but the novelty wears off as quickly as a new toy in this electronic version of Cluedo.
Although it is fun to play this game and feel in control of these puppet characters, we are really just moving prepared scenes around in this episodic mystery.

The Border Project
Malthouse Theatre until October 15, 2011
Star rating: ***

Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, Sep 29, 2011 ***

Ganesh Versus The Third Reich ***
Back To Back Theatre, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival
Malthouse Theatre, Sep 29 until Oct 9, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Sept 29, 2011
Published in Herald Sun

 Image by: Jeff Busby, Steve Tilley, Simon Laherty, David Woods

  Image by: Jeff Busby, Simon Laherty, Steve Tilley

Back to Back’s show, Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, challenges our preconceptions about disability, power, oppression, dignity and abuse. But this show, with one narrative thread based in mythological realms and the other firmly rooted in the reality of rehearsing a show, is less cohesive than previous productions.

In the fictitious myth, the elephant-headed, Hindu God, Ganesh (Brian Tilley), the destroyer and protector, travels from India to Berlin with Levi (Simon Laherty), a Jewish prisoner, to retrieve the swastika, a sacred Hindu symbol, from the ultimate destroyer, Hitler. Sound quirky enough?

The myth is vividly and lyrically portrayed as a grim fairytale in an evocative set (Mark Cuthbertson) of enormous, plastic curtaining that creates an eerie, layered effect using black and white cartoons of train, forest, cottage or barbed wire.

The second thread of this production, directed by Bruce Gladwin, is a fly-on-the-wall view of actors in rehearsal, creating the play through improvisation, discussion and vigorous, sometimes violent argument.

The arrogant, autocratic director, played by the charismatic David Woods, echoes the dictatorial style of Hitler, with Woods commanding rather than collaborating with his actors, patronising one vulnerable performer (Mark Deans) and relentlessly bullying another (Scott Price).

The analogy of oppression and abuse continues with Woods also playing the insidious Dr. Mengele, who perpetrated vile, pseudo-medical abuses upon prisoners with disabilities.

Ganesh is portrayed with great respect and dignity, but Back To Back truncates its story of Ganesh’s quest because of moral dilemmas concerning the appropriation of this Hindu God.

This eccentric idea originated when a Back to Back member persistently drew Ganesh while another created a Neo-Nazi skinhead character. The show was born of the free thought, irrepressible creativity and lack of political constraints of these actors with intellectual disability.

Although both levels of narrative are fascinating, the collision of the two is a little bewildering initially, and we crave further development of one or the other, or else a clearer meeting of the two stories.

Star rating:***

Wednesday 28 September 2011

So Blue, So Calm, Mutation Theatre, Sep 27, 2011

So Blue, So Calm ** 1/2
 By Patrick McCarthy, Mutation Theatre
Traveller Bookshop, 294 Smith St. Collingwood, Sep 27 until Oct 8, 2011

 So Blue, So Calm is a slow, unembellished and gentle chat between two friends who quietly share everyday thoughts, stories and fears.

This piece, written and directed by Patrick McCarthy, intentionally avoids peak dramatic moments, conventional narrative structure or dramatic arc.

Although it is anti-theatrical in its simplicity and conscious avoidance of obvious theatricality, McCarthy employs devices such as design and lighting to overlay the ordinary life with a sense of artifice.

James (James Tresise) and Matt (Matthew Epps), who developed the work with the writer, play versions of themselves, but their performances lack polish, even within this intentionally unpolished, realistic style.

The pair sits on canvas chairs beside a wading pool, set on artificial turf and surrounded by a limpid, blue sky dotted with clouds.

They stop, gaze and pause, waiting for the next story, memory or song, accepting the silences and comfort of their friendship. Although they pine for lovers, neither notices that this relationship is closest to love.

The style, one can’t help noting, is almost a replica of Holiday, the award-winning two-hander by Ranters’ Theatre, so this piece does not feel original in its still observations of ordinary moments between two men.

Star rating: ** 1/2

Saturday 24 September 2011

Pond, by Grit Theatre, Sep 23, 2011

Pond, by Grit Theatre **
Warehouse, Fringe Hub, Sep 23 until Oct 9, 2011

 The premise for Grit Theatre’s short performance piece, Pond, has potential, but this uneasy marriage of acting and dance still looks like a developmental workshop rather than a finished performance.

A man (Thomas Browne) and a woman (Laura Hughes) inhabit a living space cluttered with unsteady piles of computer monitors, laptops, electrical leads, stereos, microwaves, a bed and numerous unlikely house plants.

They live parallel lives, constantly absorbed in their laptops, headphones or meaningless domestic tasks. Their dysfunctional relationship is disconnected and mostly silent, apart from intermittent emotionless comments, questions or grunts.

When the electrical power fails in their apartment, they scramble to reconnect to their online worlds, only to rediscover each other and their former passion.

This sounds interesting, but the execution of these ideas is unclear, incomplete, intentionally slow-moving and sometimes bewildering. Browne and Hughes’ occasional, inserted, movement-based vignettes are more compelling than their long scenes of inactivity and silence.

Their deadpan performances and the obsession with the minutiae of daily life certainly resonate with the disconnected world of modern relationships, but the performers appear to be warm props in this production rather than part of a narrative.
Star rating:**

Friday 23 September 2011

Clybourne Park, MTC. Sep 23, 2011 *****

Clybourne Park 
By Bruce Norris
Produced by Melbourne Theatre Company
Reviewed by Kate Herbert  on Sept 23, 2011
September 23, 2011 1:23PM 
Stars: ***** 
Published in Herald Sun on Sept 26, 2011  and online on Sept 23, 2011

    Image by Jeff Busby. Cast: Patrick Brammal, Laura Gordon, Bert LaBonte', Zahra Newman, Greg Stone, Alison Whyte

    WE ARE confronted daily with issues of discrimination around the globe, but Bruce Norris's insightful, acerbic, award-winning play, Clybourne Park, reminds us that bigotry and conflict are never far from our own door.

    This impressive production is close to flawless, boasting Norris's consummate skill with dialogue and plot, Peter Evan's taut, dexterous and unobtrusive direction, and a formidable, distinguished cast playing multiple roles.

    Norris bases his narrative on Lorraine Hansberry's US classic play about racism, A Raisin in the Sun, but he investigates bigotry further in all its ugly manifestations.

    In Chicago in 1959, a privileged, white community fractures when a white family sells its house to a black family.

    Fifty years later, in 2009, when a white couple wants to rebuild on the same site, similar issues arise, albeit couched in smarter, politically correct lingo.

    Norris's astute, illuminating, socio-political observations reveal an America that, at its core, is unchanged. In both periods, the characters carefully concealed views are revealed when a stray comment ignites vehement conflict.

    Alison Whyte is touching as the brittle, anxious and mercurial Bev, a 1950s mother whose delicate psyche is shattered after her soldier son's suicide.

    As her stolid, conservative husband, Russ, Greg Stone superbly embodies repressed grief disguised as belligerence and barely controlled rage.

    Patrick Brammall is outstanding as the patronising, manipulative bigot, Karl, and Laura Gordon is suitably sweet and coy as his hearing-impaired wife.

    Bert LaBonte sensitively plays the oppressed Albert and provocatively portrays his opposite, the upwardly mobile, 2009, black professional. As his wife in both periods, Zahra Newman is feisty and entertaining.

    Luke Ryan captures the insincerity of the preacher and also provides the final, poignant moment.

    Clybourne Park is a rare jewel in contemporary, naturalistic theatre with its black humour, pithy social criticism and genuinely sensitive and heart-wrenching observations of human grief and loss.

    CLYBOURNE PARK By Bruce Norris, Melbourne Theatre Company. MTC Sumner Theatre, until Oct 22, 2011

    Star rating: *****

    Butterfly @ Trades, Sep 23, 2011

    Butterfly @ Trades, Opening Gala ****

    RENOWNED for eclectic cabaret acts at its tiny venue, the Butterfly Club has expanded to Trades Hall for the Fringe Festival.

    HOORAH! The Butterfly Club, renowned for eclectic cabaret acts at its tiny venue, has put together a program of shows in larger venues at Trades Hall.

    The Opening Night Gala provided a taster of the smorgasbord of comic and musical cabaret featured in Butterfly at Trades. Most have very short season so get out there now.

    UK comedy-cabaret drag diva, Dolly Diamond (More Than a Woman, October 7-8 ) - wearing a 1950s floral frock, wig and Princess Margarets pearls - hosted the second half with a relaxed sneer, wicked humour and twisted song lyrics.

    Em Rusciano (The Saintly Bitch Sings, September 24), who sung a Nickleback song with her powerful, husky voice, got comic mileage out of her stints on Australian Idol and commercial radio and used a burlesque fan with aplomb.

    Jade Leonard (Cafe Brazil, October 6), provided a taste of her sassy, Bossa Nova repertoire, smoky, subtle voice and virtuoso piano playing, while her rendition of Ruby Tuesday was delicious.

    An early favourite of mine, Tim Ferguson (Carry A Big Stick, September 23 and 30) jolted us into comedy-tragedy territory with comedy industry war-stories and barbed, no-holds-barred tales about his own experience Multiple Sclerosis.

    Another hot ticket is the five-part male, a cappella vocal group, Suade (Vocal Shenanigans, September 22-25), with their tight harmonies, witty medley of Australian tunes and Korean girl-band numbers.

    Butterfly at Trades boasts 45 shows including classy singers, skilled musicians, stand-ups, drag acts, burlesque dancers and others surprises. It runs until October 8. Just pick one.

    Star rating: ****

    Dumped! The Musical, Sep 23, 2011

    Dumped! The Musical ***

    DUMPED! The Musical is a comical view of women put back on the shelf or - to be blunt - dumped by their hubbies.

    If you've been through it, witnessed it, or fear it, you'll get a laugh out of the self-deprecating humour and acerbic lyrics.

    Dumpees Anonymous - an absurd, 76-step recovery program for women - is run by the ridiculously optimistic Harmony Cascade, played with relish by Jennifer Vuletic.

    Harmony's group boasts some real wackos. Emma Powell plays Sue, who is on a muffin-and-wine binge since her bloke left her for a 21 year-old but forgot to take the kids.

    Mandi Lodge is Sharon, a dumpee who is desperate for a baby and whose confidence was destroyed when her husband said her bum was too big.

    The comic highlight is psycho stalker Vera (Amanda Levy), who is on a court order to attend Dumpees after threatening her ex. Levy's Vera is a karate-kicking, Mafia hit-woman with a grudge.

    It's Daggy with a capital D. The dialogue can be predictable, but the audacious performances, big, bold voices of the singers and their resonant harmonies make Dumped a hoot.

    DUMPED! THE MUSICAL Athenaeum Theatre, until Sunday, Sep 24, 2011

    Star rating: ***

    At The Sans Hotel, Nicola Gunn, Sep 23, 2011

    Review: At The Sans Hotel, La Mama Courthouse ****

    In her startling and innovative solo show, At the Sans Hotel, Nicola Gunn shatters theatrical conventions with alacrity and astonishes us with her idiosyncratic blend of humour and pathos. 

    Gunn has a remarkable and compelling stage presence, with her open face, wide, child-like eyes and confronting gaze that flickers from joy to pain in a millisecond.

    The show falls into two parts. Gunn initially introduces herself as Sophie, an anxious, personable and vulnerable French woman who chatters to us about the fact that Nicola Gunn’s production is cancelled.
    Sophie’s harmless, playful and eccentric prattle shifts to confused, fearful flurries of conversation about loneliness, failure, despair and the nature of theatre and punctuated by sudden silences and disquieting stares.

    Eventually, the starkly lit stage (Gwen Holmberg-Gilchrist) plunges into hazy darkness with ominous music (Luke Paulding) when the focus shifts to the interrogation of a psychotic, German woman who is lost in the Australian desert, a situation loosely based on Cornelia Rau.

    Gunn’s performance challenges and entertains the audience, deconstructs narrative and warps theatrical styles and conventions to create a new form that is both disturbing and magical.

    She engages us to the point where we will do anything she asks, even fill out an invisible questionnaire, go on stage to be castigated, follow an incomprehensible argument, wait minutes for her to speak or watch the set being moved (Rebecca Etchell).

    And you will never forget those wide, desperate, staring eyes.

    By Nicola Gunn
    La Mama Courthouse, until October 2, 2011
    Star rating: ****

    10 Things I Know About You, Simon Taylor, Sep 23, 201

    Comedy: 10 Things I Know About You, Simon Taylor ***
    10 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT YOU, Simon Taylor, Butterfly at Trades, Melbourne Fringe Festival
    Trades Hall, until Oct 8, 2011

    Simon Taylor's one-hour solo show is a collage of styles and material that includes stand-up comedy, silly Michael Jackson dancing, stories, songs and one surprisingly successful magic trick. 

    Taylor’s comedy draws on his fascination with psychology and human nature so his material covers the topics of morality, happiness, language and love.

    He challenges us with our inconsistent morality and inner guilt related to donating to starving African children or paying those annoying windscreen cleaners at traffic lights.

    He suggests that lowering our expectations leads to greater happiness then highlights our privileged, urban whining about unimportant issues in his song, First World Blues.

    He shares his obsession with the versatility and complexity of language in a long, lyrical rave, then sings a witty love song that combines a romantic ballad with a list of chemical reactions that trigger our love feelings.

    He promises, at the start, to tell us the 10 things he knows about us at the end of the show, and indeed he does not disappoint us with his final, cheeky insights.

    Taylor’s show moves swiftly and efficiently, engaging us with his circuitous journey around the human psyche.

    His performance style is brisk and formal, lacking some charm and humility, but his material is entertaining and varied.

    Star rating: ***

    Tuesday 20 September 2011

    The Dollhouse, Sep 20, 2011

    The Dollhouse, at fortyfivedownstairs ** 1/2

    DO NOT expect the famous slam of a door at the end of this adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 19th-century play about marital breakdown and female emancipation. 

    Daniel Schlusser's playful and truncated production is more a deconstruction than an adaptation of Ibsen.

    The actors improvise around the text and characters, transposing them into a contemporary context, simplifying dialogue and streamlining the narrative and interpolating modern references and music.

    Unfortunately, this style eliminates the subtlety and complexity of Ibsen's characters, his finely wrought dialogue and the intricate social and political implications of his plot, leaving us with an entertaining but shallow version of the play.

    The five actors give relaxed and committed performances in this modernised Dollhouse.

    Nicki Shiels plays Nora as a shrill, vain, bratty girl without boundaries, but this interpretation omits any sense of Nora's socially sanctioned oppression by her husband and her growing awareness that she is a caged bird who must fly.

    Kade Greenland as Torvald, her self-centred husband, is a modern dilettante, but he lacks the ruthless ambition and male chauvinism of Ibsens Torvald. Edwina Wren as Kristine, Josh Price as Dr. Rank and Schlusser as Krogstad complete the playful cast.

    The stark, metallic wall of the design (Jeminah Reidy) contrasts with the chaotic clutter of children's toys and adult playthings.

    This production is entertaining but it is not Ibsen, nor does it illuminate Ibsen's notions of oppressive social mores or marital relationships.

    We miss the complexity of Nora's disintegrating psychological landscape and her loss of faith in the security of her marriage. And we miss the final door slam.

    THE DOLLHOUSE, fortyfivedownstairs (45 Flinders Lane, City), until October 9, 2011

    Star rating: ** 1/2

    Wednesday 14 September 2011

    Lavazza Italian Film Festival Sep 13, 2011

    From Italy, with love and drama
    • Kate Herbert
    • From: Herald Sun
    • September 13, 2011 12:00AM
    IF YOU thought Italian cinema couldn't get any better, the Lavazza Italian Film Festival has outdone itself with 30 inspiring Italian movies comprising dramas, thrillers, documentaries and comedies boasting Europe's finest actors and directors.
    Una Vita Tranquilla (A Quiet Life), by Claudio Cupellini, is a riveting, atmospheric, crime thriller about Rosario (Toni Servillo), an Italian whose tranquil existence crumbles slowly and inexorably when his murky past overtakes his fragile new life running a restaurant in Germany.
    Servillo, who features in four festival movies, is compelling as Rosario, struggling to avoid chaos when two Italian thugs check into his hotel and threaten to reveal his dark secrets.
    L'amore Buio (Dark Love), by Antonio Capuano, is a surprisingly sweet but disturbing story charting the lives of Irene (Irene De Angelis), a teenage rape victim, and Ciro, her 15-year old rapist (Gabriele Agrio) who spends years in detention struggling to understand his crime.
    In contrast, Rocco Papaleo's award-winning Basilicata Coast to Coast is a quirky, poignant comedy with a message about following your dreams.
    Nicola (Papaleo) enters his shabby, little quartet into a local music festival. He ridiculously proposes that, instead of driving two hours from their home to their destination on the opposite coast of Basilicata in Southern Italy, they walk for 10 days to get there and make a documentary en route.
    Other films include: the box-office hit comedy Welcome to the South; Nanni Moretti's witty We Have A Pope; Passione, John Turturro's tribute to Neapolitan music; Robert De Niro starring with Monica Bellucci in The Ages of Love.
    This 12th Italian Film Festival is a feast of tasty delights.
    LAVAZZA ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL, Palace Cinemas, from Sep 13 until Oct 5

    Look Right Through Me, Sep 13, 2011

    Look Right Through Me, Malthouse  *** 1/2
    • Kate Herbert
    • September 13, 2011 12:00AM
    LOOK RIGHT THROUGH ME, by KAGE Theatre, at Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until Sep18, 2011

    LOOK Right Through Me, a physical theatre show inspired by Michael Leunigs cartoons, echoes his whimsy and despair, but does not use his cartoon style or feature Leunigs particular character, Mr Curly.
    Kate Denborough's production creates a visceral, dark, non-specific world of physicality and dance populated by anonymous, urban characters wandering haplessly amongst the detritus of a neglectful city.
    They seem imprisoned behind a cyclone wire fence, forced to face fears and dreams, friends or foes in emotional or physical confrontations that leave them wounded, elated or exhausted.

    The five dancers (Craig Bary, Fiona Cameron, Timothy Ohl, Cain Thomas, Gerard Van Dyck) are fluid, muscular and intense in their physicality and characterisations, while Denborough's choreography channels the beauty and ugliness, isolation and camaraderie expressed in Leunigs work.
    A choreographed, scrappy fight between four men epitomises male violence; lovers slide effortlessly over each others bodies; a woman rescues a man then carries him to bathe in an abandoned rowing boat.
    Other vignettes are lighter: the playful, circus scene; a man lying on a tree branch while strumming a ukulele; a child observing from a tree, crunching on an apple or valiantly puffing air to keep a feather aloft.
    The child, dressed exactly like the man, watches his future unfold, making more poignant the signposts announcing Leunigs existential messages: Dreams will be thrown away; the life you lead; the life you could have led.
    The abandoned rubbish dump design (Julie Renton), murky lighting (Rachel Burke) and eerie, sometimes invasive sound (Jethro Woodward) enhance the grim beauty of this production.
    Star rating: *** 1/2

    Saturday 10 September 2011

    Julius Caesar, Bell Shakespeare, Sep 9, 2011

    Review: Julius Caesar, Bell Shakespeare ****
    • Kate Herbert
    • From: Herald Sun
    • September 09, 2011 12:00AM

    JULIUS CAESAR, Bell Shakespeare, Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, until September 17
    Peter Evans' pared-down production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar focuses on the backroom politics of the Roman senators who saw Caesar as a tyrant whose ambition and usurping of power clashed with Roman ideals of leadership.

    The direction is simple, stylish and well paced, with a versatile cast in modern dress playing multiple roles and making Shakespeare's poetic text reverberate in a contemporary context.

    Alex Menglet is magnetic, playing Caesar as an arrogant, old statesman who believes he is invincible and loved.

    Evans cast Kate Mulvany as a female Cassius - the conniving instigator of the conspiracy - and she is compelling. 

    As Brutus, the true believer, Colin Moody captures the moral dilemma of an honourable man who baulks at violent treachery but is driven by his love of Rome.

    Daniel Frederiksen cunningly recreates Mark Antony as a scruffy party boy who evolves into a statesman and orator at Caesar's funeral.

    Evans cleverly uses microphones and voice sampling to create crowds and off-stage characters and Anna Cordingley's sparse design is evocative with its looming Roman column. It is lit dramatically by Paul Jackson.

    The significant editing of Shakespeare's play concentrates the action on the conspirators and their relationships and inner turmoil.

    This is a rich and novel interpretation of Shakespeare's play that takes theatrical risks and makes the violence visceral without being overtly bloody.

    Star rating: ****

    Thursday 8 September 2011

    The Aliens, Red Stitch, Sep 7, 2011

    Review: The Aliens, Red Stitch Actors Theatre *** 1/2
    • Kate Herbert
    • From: Herald Sun
    • September 07, 2011 11:33AM

    THE ALIENS, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, until September 24

    IN The Aliens, Annie Baker focuses a gentle, uncritical gaze on two social dropouts who spend their dislocated days sitting beside rubbish bins behind a cafe.

    The pair seem unlikely comrades, but their loyalty and friendship become clear as we eavesdrop on their daily raves. Are they simply outcast losers or are they geniuses who went off the tracks?

    Jasper, played by Brett Cousins with aching despair and brutal brusqueness tempered by paternal care, obsesses resentfully about his ex-girlfriend, his deprived childhood and the novel he is writing.

    Brett Ludeman is credible and compelling as the emotionally volatile, mentally fragile KJ, a college dropout with a surprising academic past and an addiction to hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    These disconnected, disenfranchised fringe dwellers meet shy, 17-year old Evan, a new cafe employee, played with sensitivity and brittle anxiety by David Harrison.

    Evan, a nervous outsider himself, is slowly folded into Jasper and KJ's world where he finds kinship and two peculiar mentors.

    Baker's play, deftly directed by Nadia Tass, echoes the pace and style of Chekhov's scenes from ordinary life, but adds Pinter's menace and Beckett's existential clowns. Although it does not equal the greatness of these writers, it has simplicity and passion. 

    The production slows about halfway through and seems to have a couple of false endings, but it is a funny and moving observation of friendship and loss.

    Star rating: *** 1/2

    Wednesday 7 September 2011

    Flowerchildren, Sep 6, 2011 ***1/2

    Review: Flowerchildren - The Mamas and Papas Story *** 1/2
    • Kate Herbert
    • From: Herald Sun
    • September 06, 2011 12:25PM

    FLOWERCHILDREN: The Mamas and Papas Story, Theatreworks, St Kilda, until Sept 10, 2011

    GREAT songs combined with human tragedy is the perfect recipe for a musical.

    Peter Fitzpatrick's Flowerchildren makes the most of the messy personal lives and hit music of The Mamas and Papas, the 1960s Californian flower-power quartet.

    They produced a parade of memorable songs, but their lives were marred by substance abuse, shattered relationships and early death. 

    Aaron Joyner's production for Magnormos keeps the focus firmly on characters and songs and the versatile cast handles the complex harmonies and difficult musical intervals with alacrity.

    Casey Donovan (of Australian Idol fame), using her vocal powerhouse and previously undiscovered acting talent, makes Mama Cass sympathetic and moving and she sings a thrilling Dream A Little Dream Of Me.

    Matt Hetherington is commanding and in fine voice as the immensely talented but doomed songwriter, John Phillips, an arrogant, drug-addicted womaniser.

    Laura Fitzpatrick is warm, playful and sensitive as Michelle, John's man-magnet wife whose affair with Denny (Dan Humphris) causes rifts but also fuels Johns songwriting with passion and grief.

    Humphris is a bright, warm tenor and plays the rambling, alcohol-addled Denny with charm and ease.

    Their four-part harmonies are spine-tingling and you'll be singing California Dreamin', Monday Monday and I Saw Her Again Last Night for days.

    Star rating: *** 1/2